CAN YOU EXPLAIN HR218 TO ME?
I’m active duty law enforcement, but no one can seem to explain to me whether or not I can carry concealed across the U.S. under HR218, or if I’d be better off getting a concealed carry permit.
— Brad R., Eagan MN
The Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA), also known as HR218, was enacted in 2004 and amended in 2010 and 2013. It allows active-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms in any state in the U.S. — subject to a number of very specific criteria. The first criteria to understand is exactly who falls under the definition of active duty or retired law enforcement officers.
Who Qualifies for HR218?
To be covered by HR218 while on active duty, you must, in part, be an employee of a government agency (that means if you’re a private contractor, you’re not covered), you must have statutory powers of arrest, and you must be authorized by your agency to carry a firearm. To be covered as a retired LEO, you must have previously met the requirements for active-duty officers and you must have been regularly employed by your agency as a LEO for at least 10 years.
In addition, for retired LEOs to be covered by HR218, you must qualify annually with your firearm, using the same course of fire established by your agency. Lacking a standard, you must pass a firearms qualification established by another agency or authority within your state. Other requirements exist for both classes of officers, such as not being the subject of any disciplinary action against you, and a lack of any mental health disqualification.
Not a Separate Permit
Unlike concealed carry permits issued by state or local agencies, no actual permit card is issued for carrying under the authority of HR218. Instead, active-duty LEOs simply carry their photo ID issued by their agency. Retired LEOs must carry photo ID from their previous agency indicating that they have passed their agency’s firearms qualification in the previous 12 months. Alternatively, they may carry a photo ID from their agency and a firearms qualification certificate as two separate documents.
Understanding the Limitations
On the surface, HR218 sounds like a great benefit for both active duty and retired LEOs, but there are some important limitations that must be understood. Also, some oddities can occur when federal law and state law collides. Limitations include the requirement to follow state law when it comes to carry on private, local or state property or buildings (something you may not be subject to when carrying under the authority of your agency). You are required to follow federal law when carrying on federal property (for example, HR218 would not allow you to carry a firearm into a federal courthouse).
It’s also important to understand that HR218 does not provide you with the equivalent of a concealed carry permit in states that you travel to, so you may not have all of the protections and rights that may be specifically spelled out in that state’s concealed carry law. As an example, the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 prohibits the carrying of a firearm within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools. Holders of a Minnesota Permit to Carry a Firearm, however, are authorized to be on school property (specifically, the school parking lot) with a firearm as long as they remain in their vehicle. An active duty or retired LEO carrying under HR218 may discover that they are not protected under Minnesota law in the same situation (since they don’t actually have a Minnesota permit), and they may be in violation of federal law.
HR218 as an Alternative to May Issue
Because of those oddities (and the requirement for retired LEOs to qualify annually), our advice is that HR218 might be best used if you find yourself traveling to or living in one of the states that does not enjoy a “shall issue” permit system. Otherwise, you may be better off applying for a permit to carry in your home state, and picking up a Florida or Utah permit to boot. Such a combination will provide a wide range of reciprocity and recognition of those permits across a number of “shall issue” states. As always, it is your responsibility to know the laws of any state to which you might be traveling.